Category Archives: History

New York in the 1920’s & 30’s as Seen by Luigi Kasimir – Part 2

Six More Views of New York City From The 1920s & 30s by Artist Luigi Kasimir

New York City skyline as seen from Central Park. Etching by Luigi Kasimir

Seven years ago we featured the art work of Luigi Kasimir.

In the first half of the 20th century Kasimir was admired by peers and critics in the art world. His name has been forgotten in the 21st century by most people, except New York art aficionados.

Luigi Kasimir was born in 1881 in the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and later came to New York where he repeatedly captured the architectural sights of the city. Kasimir is best known for his detailed etchings, many of which were done in color, which apparently was not the norm for early 20th century etchings.  The New York Times distinguished Kasimir from other etchers of the time at a contemporary exhibition in 1926 by referring to him as a “colorist.” These aquatints have a vibrancy that makes the New York of the 1920’s and 1930’s come alive.  Kasimir was prolific and produced hundreds of works until his death in 1962.

We thought it was worth taking another look at Kasimir’s delightful scenes of New York. So here are six additional etchings of Luigi Kasimir’s New York City.

(click on any etching to enlarge.)

Wall Street, April 1936 Continue reading

New Yorkers Welcome In The New Year 1907 – But No Horn Blowing Allowed!

New Year’s Celebration 1907 – New York Police Commissioner Bans Horn Blowing

A photographer from the Montauk Photo Concern decided to photograph the scene inside the Cafe Martin, at 26th Street and Fifth Avenue on New Year’s Eve December 31, 1906.

As midnight approached the revelers at Cafe Martin noisily whooped it up, raised their glasses and toasted the coming New Year of 1907. This photograph captures a singular moment: right before the stroke of midnight the lights were put out and at exactly twelve, were put on again. The guests then sang along as the band broke into the Star Spangled Banner. Afterwards guests blew horns and confetti was strewn everywhere. Young men filled with the idea of making a speech got up on chairs and spoke to the heart’s content without anyone to stop them.

The guests, all elegantly attired, look like they are having an extraordinary time.

Outside the restaurant it was supposed to be quieter. A city ordinance forbidding horn blowing in the streets had been on the books for years. Earlier in the day Police Commissioner Theodore Bingham informed the newspapers that the bells of Trinity and Grace Church would be heard when they tolled the midnight hour.

Bingham instructed the police to enforce the noise law. All horn blowing was prohibited on New Year’s Eve! Continue reading

45 Years Ago President Truman Died – Remembering A Man of Conviction and Courage

Harry Truman Died December 26, 1972 At Age 88.

Some Words About and From President Truman

Here’s how the CBS Evening News covered the death of the 33rd President of the United States, Harry S. Truman. This three minute clip reflects the simplicity of Harry Truman.

Throughout his life Harry Truman spoke his mind and was honest and ethical, highly unusual traits for a politician.

How much of a straight shooter was Harry Truman? The following story clearly illustrates it.

President Nixon tours Truman Library with President Truman March 21 1969 photo: Harry S. Truman Library

When he retired from public life in 1953, President Truman and his wife Bess moved into his mother-in-law’s house in Independence, MO. They had almost no money.

Truman had been offered many jobs, but turned them all down. Truman had not exploited his fame or former power of the high office he had held for monetary gain.

“I could never lend myself to any transaction, however respectable, that would commercialize on the prestige and dignity of the office of the presidency,” Truman would later write of his refusal to influence-peddle to get by.

No president received a pension until 1958 when Congress established a law giving former presidents a pension of $25,000 per year.

Truman would frequently recite this prayer…and mean it:

“Oh! Almighty and Everlasting God, Creator of Heaven, Earth and the Universe: Help me to be, to think, to act what is right, because it is right; make me truthful, honest and honorable in all things; make me intellectually honest for the sake of right and honor and without thought of reward to me. Give me the ability to be charitable, forgiving and patient with my fellowmen—help me to understand their motives and their shortcomings—even as Thou understandest mine! Amen.”

To get a sense of Harry Truman, Continue reading

Old New York In Photos #82 – Central Park Mall c. 1870

The Mall In Central Park & The American Elms

Central Park was once young and so were its trees. We are looking south from 72nd Street in this rare circa 1870 stereoview photograph. You can see the American elm trees along both sides of the Mall that had been planted only a decade before. If you’ve been along this famous stretch of the park, you know that the trees are a constant – always the same year after year for over 100 years. To see the trees at this height is a startling sight. Continue reading

Mendicants In New York City – 1910

Mendicants 1910

This photograph taken at Sixth Avenue and 14th Street by Lewis Hine in 1910 is simply labeled “Mendicants.”

It’s a word you don’t often hear today. Mendicant – a beggar; panhandler.

While you may think the main subject here is the blind man sitting by the pole of the el, that would not be the case The focus of the photograph is the little girl who is begging. She appears aged and streetwise beyond her years. But both of them are mendicants.

Hine’s photographs of children at work in major cities usually focuses on newspaper sellers, shoe shiners, telegraph boys, delivery boys and other street trades. In 1910 mendicant was considered a street trade.

Who are these two people? Father and daughter? Grandfather and granddaughter? Or just two people in need who have teamed up to ply their trade?

Where did they live?

Unfortunately Hine did not get the names, ages and addresses of this girl and blind man, as he did with many of his other subjects. Continue reading

The Appliance Every Household Needs

An Appliance Store Advertises A New Dishwasher Innovation -1951

You almost have to wonder if the sign in the window was a joke, or did some unfortunate writer really make this blunder?

Automatic Butterfingers

New York: The signpainter must have been thinking of the last time he helped dry the dishes at home, when he made this sign on the window of a Staten Island appliance store. Of course it’s a dishwasher on display, not a dishmasher. (11-26-1951) credit: Acme

My guess is, Continue reading

Shooting’s Fun For Everyone

Teaching Children To Shoot – 1957

Not that long ago shooting a rifle or a pistol was a right of passage for American children.

Here is a 16 page 1957 pamphlet put out by the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers Institute to encourage shooting for boys and girls. Its the sort of thing that today would probably be considered politically incorrect and start a huge protest if it were given out to schoolchildren. Some might call the pamphlet propaganda, but in the 1950s shooting and hunting as a recreational activity was one of the most popular leisure pastimes in the United States.

Shooting as a sport was considered to be a wholesome, fun activity that the family could do together. The popularity of sport fishing and wild game hunting in the United States soared to new heights in 1957 when a record total of 34,195,183 licenses were sold to devotees of those outdoor sports.

Today recreational shooting and especially hunting have been on a steady decline with 33 states issuing fewer hunting licenses in the past 20 years according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In an NBC interview Mark Damian Duda, executive director of Responsive Management, a Virginia-based natural resources research group said, “Fifty years ago, a lot of kids would hunt and fish and be outside, now it’s easier to sit in your playroom and play video games.”

Today the idea of giving a child a gun and teaching them how to use and respect a gun is an anathema to many people. When the word “shooting” is mentioned in the news it is usually preceded by the word “mass”.

What has changed? Continue reading

Photographs Of New York City School Life & Children In 1902

Unseen For 115 Years – Photographs of New York City School Life & Kids

Children arriving late “A Minute After Nine” New York City schools September 1902 photo: Florence Maynard

Our previous story on Why People Disbelieve the Newspapers led to browsing other issues of World’s Work magazine.

Inside the covers are a treasure trove of interesting articles and photographs that generally have remained hidden since their original publication.

From the October 1902 World’s Work was “A Day’s Work in A New York Public School” by William McAndrew . There are some great photographs by Florence Maynard taken to accompany the article.

So what was a day’s work in a New York City public school like?

3,000 children were crowded into one typical school. 40 or more students in a class. Supplies were in short order. Free space to play was non-existent. Children of different intellect, culture and background were taught civics, patriotism and the 3 R’s. There was one language you were expected to learn- English.

But if you think the article has a negative take-away, you would be mistaken. McAndrew extols the schools, students, teachers, administrators, and the education system despite the shortcomings.

Look into the faces of these New York City schoolchildren of a century ago. What do you see?

Here are the photos with short excerpts from the article.

“Saluting The Flag” New York City schools September 1902 photo: Florence Maynard

Three thousand throats do service to the cause of patriotism. Shrill little trebles, very new and fresh, basses not yet sure of the dignity of a changed register, besides all the voices between, unite to shout out the national anthem, or some other song required by law. The school rises to its feet. Every hand comes to the position of salute and then extends upward and outward towards the banner while the voices declare in unison: ” I pledge allegiance to my Flag.”

“Well-doers waiting for the principal’s commendation.” New York City schools September 1902 photo: Florence Maynard

A pretty morning ceremony is the procession of candidates to the office of the principal for daily commendation one or two children from each room, bearing their trophies of penmanship or ciphering with them. Each has his card of introduction, properly endorsed, accrediting him to the court of the Great Potentate. It reads:

To The Principal.  Sept. 30, 1902.

This will introduce to you Johnny Johnson From Room 32 whom I recommend for compliment for great improvement in behaving himself.

Mary Potter
Teacher.

“A treaty of peace.” photo: Florence Maynard

“Staying after school.” photo: Florence Maynard

 

“The Geography Club cutting up illustrated magazines” New York City schools September 1902, photo: Florence Maynard

There is no limit to the benefits the public schools derives from private benefactions. Taxation can never supply enough income to permit the school authorities to equip the buildings as any generous lover of children would wish. To erect a safe, well-lighted structure, architecturally artistic, is the limit of the city’s ability. The inner walls must be bare. Casts and pictures, if they come at all, must be the gift of some intelligent citizens who recognize the subtle and silent teaching done by good art in the places where our children spend a good part of the most susceptible period of their lives. Continue reading

The Origins of Fake News – 1904 Article “Why People Disbelieve The Newspapers”

Fake News Has Been Around A Lot Longer Than You Think –  This 1904 Article Explains Methods That Have Changed Little In 100 Years

The internet has given the perceived notion that fake news is a relatively new phenomenon. Let’s say the term fake news is a misnomer,  fake news should more properly be called outright lies or nonsense.

Pulitzer Prize winner Edward Bok

Edward Bok had a good deal to say about “fake news” when he wrote an article that appeared in the magazine World’s Work in March 1904.

Bok’s article “Why People Disbelieve The Newspapers An Explanation Of The System; That Makes Accuracy And Truthfulness Difficult To Attain” still holds a great deal of relevance today.

Edward Bok was born in the Netherlands in 1863. He immigrated to the United States with his parents in 1870 when he was six years old. Bok had to quit school when he was in his early teens to help support his family.

In 1889 at age 26, Bok became the editor of the Ladies Home Journal.  Not only a talented editor but prolific writer, Bok stayed at the helm of the Journal for 30 years retiring in 1919.  He wrote,  “The Americanization of Edward Bok: The Autobiography of a Dutch Boy Fifty Years After.” Published by Charles Scribner’s and Sons, the book won the 1921 Pulitzer Prize in Biography or Autobiography. Bok died in 1930.

In 2017 the dissemination of information, good and bad can be spread in a few clicks of a mouse. Many newspapers despite dwindling readership and circulation still have vast influence on what we all read. Then there are the web sites that masquerade as news outlets pumping out story after story.

One of the main problems of evaluating news is considering the source. The internet has made that problem worse, especially for young people. Stanford Graduate School of Education concluded that, “young people’s ability to reason about the information on the Internet can be summed up in one word: bleak.”

A 2016 study conducted by researchers at Stanford found “a dismaying inability by students to reason about information they see on the Internet, the authors said. Students, for example, had a hard time distinguishing advertisements from news articles or identifying where information came from.”

Countless articles have been written about the lack of fact checking in media.

There is also the real concern of media bias both liberal and conservative.

Finally it’s not just the young, there is the inability of adults to distinguish obvious comedy or satire from news. Even some of our obviously outlandish satirical stories have inexplicably been taken as fact (or even worse, fake news) by a handful of readers, even though the stories are outright ridiculous.  We list those stories under the category of comedy. See links at bottom of this story to see examples.

In 1904 Bok theorized that in the race for speed, that is to get the news out quickly, newspapers purposely neglected fact-checking and would embellish or simply make up stories. Bok also discovered that this directive often came from the top down and saturated news organizations. In the rush to get a scoop on competitors and gain circulation, truth would be sacrificed.

The bigger the headline, the more outrageous the story, the more likely it would be that potential readers would not pass up purchasing a newspaper. Journalistic morals ignored lead to fake news.

Does this sound familiar? Why do people click on internet stories now?  Do you fact check what you have read? How have things changed in 113 years?

Today the goal remains-  how many eyeballs will come to a web site. Sometimes there is another agenda, but almost always it is to gain ad revenue. People still doubt the reality of what they read.

Here reprinted in full is Edward Bok’s article showing important lessons can always be learned from the past.

Why People Disbelieve The Newspapers An Explanation Of The System; That Makes Accuracy And Truthfulness Difficult To Attain

By Edward Bok

TIME was, and it is not so long ago, when folks believed what they read in the newspapers. But now, if people do not absolutely disbelieve all that is published in all the papers, surely much of the modern newspaper writing is regarded with incredulity. “Wait until tomorrow and it will be denied” is a frequent comment; and one need not always wait until the following day; it is too often the case that the evening papers deny what the morning papers print. Continue reading

How Baseball Fans “Watched” The 1911 World Series

Before Radio Or Television If You Didn’t Have A Ticket To The World Series – You Could Still Watch It On The Play-O-Graph

Advertisement for the “wonderful Automatic Play-O-Graph” – Philadelphia Inquirer Oct. 13, 1911

In August, 1911 with $10,000 capital, John W. Baker, Henry H. Abbott and Sumner Ford incorporated the Baseball Play-O-Graph Company in Stamford, Connecticut. The men devised a way of transmitting the actions of sporting events “live” through telephone and telegraph.

The depiction of baseball games through mechanical means had been accomplished previously, but not showing the track of the ball, which was what made the Play-O-Graph unique. The Play-O-Graph would show the action without the aid of electric lights.

Baseball fans congregate outside the New York Herald Building during the 1911 World Series

In October of 1911 the American League champion Philadelphia Athletics lead by manager Connie Mack would play John McGraw’s New York Giants for the World Championship.

Giants manager John McGraw (l) and catcher Chief Myers (r) at Polo Grounds before 1911 World Series.

Giants manager John McGraw (l) and catcher Chief Myers (r) at Polo Grounds before 1911 World Series.

There were a couple of oddities in the 1911 World Series. Each game alternated cities with games one, three and five being played in New York and games two, four and six played in Philadelphia. The other strange occurrence was that there was a one week delay between games three and four as a deluge of rain hit Philadelphia for six straight days.

After inspecting the field for playability causing the fifth straight postponement of game four, umpire Bill Klem joked, “There was a pool around second base big enough for a diving exhibition by (swimming champ) Annette Kellerman. I was unable to locate the home plate for the lack of a diving apparatus. The outer gardens would make excellent pasturage for a herd of hippopotami.”

Both teams were considered evenly matched and felt confident they could win the series. Since 1904 each team had won three pennants.

Line outside the Polo Grounds at 7:00 am to buy tickets for game 3 of the 1911 World Series. photo: Bain

When tickets for the opening game of the World Series went on sale on Friday, October 13 at the Giants home field, the Polo Grounds all the tickets were gone within two hours. After the sell-out, the regular ticket price of three dollars shot up to five, six, seven and eventually eight dollars from speculators (scalpers) who had scooped up as many tickets as possible.

With over 38,000 fans cramming the ballpark it would be difficult to see the game without a ticket.

That would be where the Play-O-Graph would come into use. Setting up their machines at four locations in the United States, fans could see the game as it transpired.

“When the pitcher pitches the ball and when the batter hits it and when he is thrown out, is all shown upon the Play-O-Graph. Every move of the game is made clear to the spectator who watches the ball as it moves from place to place upon the board,” the company proclaimed.

The company installed two boards in New York, one in Chicago, one in Detroit and one in Philadelphia. Continue reading